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Neuroscience Professor Receives Equipment Loan to Continue Research on Learning Behavior

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Posted on Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dr. Deanne Buffalari, assistant professor and chair of the Neuroscience program, was awarded an equipment loan grant administered by the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience and sponsored by San Diego Instruments.  The grant will support work on her proposal entitled, "Reinforcement enhancement properties of nicotine during reinstatement of cocaine conditioned place preference driven by stressful and cocaine-paired stimuli.”

"We are using animal models of addiction to try to study how nicotine and cocaine might interact,” explains Buffalari. “Individuals who use drugs, such as cocaine, are often smokers.  When they try to quit cocaine, we are interested in whether smoking might increase or decrease their ability to remain abstinent from cocaine— that's the next step that I'm working on over the next two years.” 

Buffalari used the grant to loan a place conditioning set up, equipment used to measure learning related behaviors. She’s particularly interested in how rats learn to associate places with drugs.  

“That's how I use it to model addiction. I want to know if smoking (we give the rats nicotine injections) changes the way that places associated with cocaine can control behavior and increase risk of relapse.”

This study will be used in a couple of Buffalari’s upcoming courses, “Learning” and “Behavioral Neuroscience.” Although the equipment loan was granted to drive her research, Buffalari encourages students to use it for their Neuroscience capstone and several undergraduate students will be involved in conducting research with her over the next two years.

For more information, contact Tom Fields at or 724-946-7190.